Though evidence is still nascent, the emerging picture suggests the climate is changing rapidly and irreversibly. While estimations of the extent of impact are not completely developed, its consequences are becoming increasingly clear and apparent in the growing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Policies will not only have to focus on encouraging the use of green technology and innovations and monitor and regulate the emissions of carbon and pollution. They also need to build resilience and safety nets, develop mechanisms for disseminating information rapidly, prepare urban and public infrastructure to effectively absorb climate refugees and migrants, and usher a structural transformation across the society.
- Policies to encourage structural transformation now have added pertinence for limiting the impacts of climate change. Barriers to structural transformation are also barriers to climate adaptation. Policies that expand access to markets, enhance human capital, or help match rural workers to jobs in cities are crucial not just for growth, but also adaptation and resilience, by reducing exposure to climate shocks. Every context will have different constraints – be it credit, information, or infrastructure – which should guide the appropriate policy response. It is important, however, that climate change factors feed into the evaluation of traditional rural development programmes.
- Building resilience and safety nets will be even more critical as climate change worsens. The science on the impacts of climate change is clear: stronger downpours, longer dry spells, and more intense storms will continue. This means that a ‘long tail’ in the distribution of climate damages exists. Natural disasters or weather events that were previously rare are becoming more likely, with larger impacts on populations. Social safety nets, such as targeted cash transfers or automatic programmes for dispensing support to vulnerable groups in times of need, can buttress the resilience of these groups to such shocks.
- Forward planning in cities to handle the likely influx of climate refugees and/or more rapid migration is essential. Climate change affects regions differently. As a result, there will be greater movements of people within and across countries. As the potential for agricultural production declines in an area, migrants may move to other areas to find better opportunities. Such movements can be gradual or extremely rapid, especially in response to natural disasters or prolonged extreme weather events like droughts. Cities are often the destination of these migrants or refugees. An inability to absorb these population inflows into the public housing stock or into local labour markets could generate tensions and strife. Planning in advance can therefore minimise the impacts of such dynamics in the future.
- Policies to support the adoption of new technologies will be key for ensuring sustainable growth. Technology adoption in agriculture can help minimise the yield loss from changing weather, while new forms of technology can clean up the generation of energy and the production of goods. Several well-known constraints impede the ability for individuals or firms to adopt these new technologies. Providing credit, enhancing knowledge, and addressing coordination problems can ensure a timely rollout of new technologies.
- Market-based regulations can drive efficient and rapid reductions in pollution and emissions. Command-and-control approaches which levy sector-wide restrictions are easy to implement but hard to enforce. More so, they do not reward firms who face the cheapest costs of abating pollution or emissions. Establishing a market for pollution or emissions can ensure that reduction targets are met while ensuring that these reductions are done in an efficient manner. Information technologies like smart meters or continuous emissions monitoring systems are critical components for these market-based regulations to be successful.
- Greater dissemination of information on the implications of climate change and early-warning systems can ensure that society stays out of harm’s way. Households must be aware of how climate change will alter their livelihoods in the future for them to start on the right path towards adaptation. Likewise, information on technological solutions for these challenges can help ensure that investments are made early enough. Early-warning systems that raise alarms on incoming natural disasters or likely prolonged extreme weather events can also be useful to ensure that people move out of harm’s way.